Sunday, 5 July 2020

The Doomed Characters

By Jaideep Sen

The minute I was reminded by my wife Anjali yesterday morning that today is GURU POORNIMA the thought to do an ode to my Ultimate Guru, Salim Khan Saab, popped in my head. I have been wanting to do this piece on the Doomed Characters, Vijay from Deewar perhaps Salim Saab-Javed Saab’s greatest script ever - I say perhaps because Sholay is my personal favorite even in terms of writing - and Vicky from Naam which is unarguably Salim Saab’s greatest script as a solo writer. Today, it found a fresh burst of oxygen.

Through the lockdown I have watched both Deewar and Naam a few times and that lurking sense of losing both Vijay and Vicky forever looms large on the films especially through the second half like a predator shark which is on the fringe waiting to attack. It is this feeling which makes both films emotionally so palpable.

Both the characters are scarred by life: Vijay by the extreme humiliation his father has gone through, the abject poverty his mother and brother have faced plus that embedded tattoo of “Mera baap chor hain” not only on his forearm but his soul too.

Sunjay Dutt as Vicky in Naam
Vicky on the other hand is a loose canon with an aim to work abroad and hustling to generate money to get there but is shaken to the core of his existence when he learns that the brother whom he has taken unintentionally for granted till now is his half-brother; his world turns topsy turvy and he becomes desperate to do something for his mother and brother.

Thus, set out two turbulent characters to achieve what they feel is rightfully theirs breaking the law of the land because for characters with such a tunnel vision what matters is the light of a comfortable life for their mother at the end of it & not the method of achieving that light. They become so propelled emotionally that they don’t mind taking on the law. Unfortunately, the Law is an emotionless adversary and when it catches up with them it’s perhaps a bit too late.

Amitabh Bachchan as Vijay in Deewar
Here the emotional masterstroke that Salim Saab-Javed Saab in Deewar & Salim Saab in Naam have brought is the sense of awakening that happens in both Vijay, so stoically played by Amit Ji, and Vicky played with heartrending vulnerability by Sanjay Dutt at a juncture in the films where the audience feels that they might just about achieve their redemption and make it out alive. But then the strong arm of the law delivers that one fatal blow and it’s all over.

The dialogue of the mother “Bhagwan kare goli chalate waqt tere haath nahin kaape” that overlaps as soon as Ravi fires the bullet on his brother Vijay in Deewar leaves the audience emotionally numb - so powerful was the moment in the film.

The fine print of this superlative writing is also to without being obvious send out a strong signal to the audience that come what may don’t cross the threshold of the law because premature death is waiting around the corner for a doomed character.

That’s why Salim Saab is the Guru because along with compelling powerful cinema, there’s also an emotional takeaway of the value system one needs to pick up from reel life and apply in real life.   

Jaideep Sen is a filmmaker and a connoisseur of the art of storytelling.

Read his earlier posts in this series here....